Blenheim Palace offers drinks discount to visitors as returnable cups scheme attracts interest from major UK brands

Blenheim Palace has added an exciting new incentive to its pioneering returnable cups scheme, which is garnering interest from a slew of influential industry leaders and retailers.

The scheme, originally trialled in the Walled Garden in 2022, now includes an inducement for visitors who bring their own cup to get £1 off the price of their hot drink.

The returnable cups scheme invites visitors to ‘go green’ with takeaway hot drinks served in returnable cups, which come with a £2 deposit. Visitors drinking inside will have the alternative of a ceramic cup.

Once visitors are finished with their drink, they simply return the reusable cup to one of the numerous on-site return points. They scan the QR code and their account is refunded; there is the option to transfer their deposit to Blenheim Palace’s charity of the year. The cups are then washed and are ready for a new visitor to use.

David Green, Blenheim’s Head of Innovation said: “We were delighted to host a visit of some major UK brands – including many of the big supermarket chains – who visited us lto hear more about our returnable cup scheme, which will eradicate single-use coffee cups on the Estate by using deposit return technology.”

This groundbreaking sustainability and technology programme reduces the palace’s annual carbon footprint, by the equivalent of approximately 30 tonnes of CO2e, which is comparable to the annual emissions of 19 petrol-driven cars. Additionally, it eliminates the disposal of 400,000 single-use coffee cups, a practice that was previously in place.

Blenheim Palace has partnered with Oxfordshire-based re-universe and Circular&Co. to combine the deposit and tracking technology with a returnable cup designed specifically for them.

​Other organisations who collaborated on the project included Avery Dennison, GS1, Mitsui and Zebra Technologies, with a Life Cycle Analysis currently being undertaken by RECOUP.

David Green added: “We believe climate change is the single biggest threat to Blenheim’s long-term survival and we’re committed to doing all we can to reduce and mitigate its impacts and help safeguard this World Heritage Site and its resources for future generations.”

​A group of representatives from leading UK retailers recently paid a visit to Blenheim Palace to hear more about the new reusable cups scheme – the day was organised by RECOUP, the UK’s leading independent authority and trusted voice on plastics resource efficiency and recycling.

​Katherine Fleet, Head of Sustainability & Circularity at RECOUP, commented: “Unlocking reuse at scale is a key industry focus as we transition to a circular economy. We were therefore delighted to be hosted, along with some of our members, by Blenheim Palace, re-universe and other partners, to experience their pioneering digital returnable cup scheme.  

“By seeing reuse systems in operation, we hope it will inspire others to think about how they can be implemented in further environments as we work towards reuse becoming more mainstream.”

Rachel Warren, CEO of re-universe, added: “Well-designed returnable packaging systems have the ability to enable reuse at scale. We were honoured to be asked to showcase our re-universe digital returns system at Blenheim Palace to change-makers and decision makers from UK’s major retailers alongside RECOUP. 

“Blenheim are leading the way with a digital reuse scheme that engages visitors, delivers cup-to-cup traceability and accurate real-time data, and we are proud to have partnered with them on this ongoing initiative. This project shines a light on how collaborative effort creates meaningful results to create a world-class returns system at a World Heritage Site.”

As part of its 10 Goals, Blenheim is committed to addressing the climate emergency by setting the goal to become carbon neutral by 2027, and to sequester over 200,000 tonnes CO2e by 2050.